THE BODY was found around 500 meters from my apartment building in Jeddah two days before I returned from my three-month fellowship abroad. It was that of a 30-something Indian male, and it had been thrown into an abandoned water tank. Bloated beyond recognition, the police had located it after arresting the mastermind behind the crime and two of his accomplices. A third male accomplice was just arrested this past week dressed as a woman and hiding in the bathroom of a pizza restaurant.
The dead man was Ameer Ali, an accountant for a watch company who had been killed by a Yemeni co-worker and three Saudi accomplices all for SR600,000. The dead man left behind a wife and three children in Kerala, one only eight months old and which he had never seen.
I learned all of this from my driver Muneer who had happened to be driving past the location where the body was found, only to be flagged down by police who asked him if he minded helping them retrieve a body from a water tank. He said he didn’t mind and that is when he saw the disfigured and rotting body of a man that he had been acquainted with, but which no longer bore any resemblance to the Ameer that he had known.
“My mother is frightened now,” Muneer told me. “How can you trust anyone anymore?”The younger brother of Ameer, who also works in Jeddah, has said that relatives of the Yemeni have already sent out feelers for their family to accept blood money, but that his family doesn’t want any money and only wants justice to be served.In Saudi Arabia that means that the Yemeni and his accomplices will face the death penalty and be beheaded.
****UNFORTUNATELY it is not only company accountants being killed in Jeddah these days. Filipinos are too. In a gruesome chop-chop slay case, the dismembered bodies of three Filipinos were found early this month in a remote area of south Jeddah. Ten Filipinos have been arrested in connection with these bloody murders and after interrogation at least one of them confessed to their crime according to local press reports, telling police which house, in the poor Al-Ghulail district, they had used to chop up the bodies.
Authorities are saying that the mutilated bodies are those of Pinoys involved in illegal numbers games, victims of a possible dispute of a payout that never occurred.
****IN A perhaps not totally unconnected incident, more than 100 Filipinos in Jeddah this month were arrested for questioning in connection with illegal cockfighting that was being regularly held at a farm just outside the city.
Bored Filipino workers would go there to bet on cockfights. As they all well know, gambling of any kind is forbidden in the Kingdom, and as such must have known that they were breaking the law. But boredom can push people to do strange things, and the Pinoy love of gambling must have been hard to resist especially here where many Filipinos come to work as bachelors, leaving behind spouses, children and families back in the Philippines.
****CONTINUING with what seems to be shaping up as a record “Filipino Crime Month,” twenty Filipino workers have been arrested for allegedly stealing 1.8 tons of gold from a mine they worked in near Madinah over the past six years.That’s a lot of gold. At today’s gold prices, that amounts to more than $37 million worth of gold!
It seems the workers, which include engineers, used a contact at the Jeddah airport to smuggle the gold out of the country in cargo going to the Philippines.
Initial press reports had said they had been sentenced to three years imprisonment, which seemed like a light sentence for such a large and sustained period of thievery. Now it seems that they are still under investigation and have not been sentenced yet. They will be lucky if they don’t have their hands amputated, which is the Islamic punishment for aggravated and premeditated stealing. (And no, you don’t have your hand chopped off for stealing food if you’re hungry.)
****THE Filipino community has understandably been abuzz with all of these unseemly events, the lack of any clear information giving rise to overblown conjecture and panic. Part of the blame lies with local authorities who have been, as is traditional, extremely reluctant to divulge any information until interrogation of suspects is completed.
That plus the accompanying silence of the Philippine missions in Riyadh and Jeddah, has left a huge information vacuum that allowed the growth of inaccurate tales.Some Filipinos I have talked to have asked me to condemn these acts, which I naturally do. But it seems facile to moralize on these criminal acts, which are so obviously wrong. After all, those who committed them are adults and are aware of how wrong they were. The only conclusion that one can draw from this is that pure greed must have driven all of those involved in these crimes.
In the end I don’t feel sorry for any of these people, and I suspect neither does anyone in the Filipino community. Instead, we all feel shame and embarrassment.